Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When the pendulum swings

Usually the only factor to getting a photo with
the girls is their squirmy ways, factor in Leslie's lack of
strength, and this was a very lucky special moment.
Family has been one of the great constants in the lives of our girls, Greta Jo and Clara Lou.  My parents, sisters, JJ's parents, brothers and sisters, cousins.  It isn't the sort of daily interaction at all levels, but the love runs deep all the same.  The choices one person makes, to show love and support, to have the character of their choices demonstrate who they are, not just to themselves, but also within our family?  Well, there is no real litmus test for defining when that is.  It's born out over time.  We all face strife and joy, and face fears, over-come hardships and celebrate accomplishments.  We either show up, or we don't.  What I know is that we are the type of family that shows up for one another.

I've written about how Gammy Margi is facing a time of transition, wanting to be closer to her three sons, granddaughters, and making the necessary changes to make that a reality.  Below are some videos we took during her stay.

My sister Leslie had similar plans for change, what she hadn't planned was not having the immediate health to not be able to pursue it.  It's just three weeks after we and her doctors can only speculate was when Leslie suffered a stroke.  It's only 12 days after Dad was hospitalized for walking pneumonia.  Mom had her infection that put her in the hospital and rehab for a few weeks last February.  My cousin on my Mother's side facing their hardships and battles with the likes of cancer, and yet they have the courage and support to strive for a chance of being healthy again.  Then there's all those in my Father-in-law's family facing their struggles.  Cast the net a little wider, and throw in heart ache, and job loss, and financial hardships.  Life is just plumb messy and hard at times.

We all have stuff.  Just my stuff recently has been heart wrenching.  Dad's illness threw us for a loop, and yet, his ability to be resilient and find a way to maintain his and Mom's independence sets a high bar.  It's not just that he's 83 a two-time open heart surgery survivor and two-time (that we know of) vertebral stroke survivor, it's that who he is and the choices he makes are ones that put his family first.  His ability to do that is shocking when you consider that he grew up not knowing what it meant to have his own bedroom until he was 16, and even then, it was a cot in the kitchen of his parent's apartment.  His parents granted permission for him to join the navy at 17.  Now, I won't disparage my paternal Grandfather, but let it suffice, Grandpa was of a different generation, and wasn't always a stellar example in how to love and care for a family.  Even so, he managed to raise an amazing son in my Father.  My Dad's pretty terrific, all said.

Mom and Dad did a pretty wonderful job raising we four girls to love one another.  Heck, I'll go so far to say we like one another.  That's not to say that my family of origin always gets along, always shows up for one another in the way the recipient wants or needs.  Nope, we get it wrong all the time... it's how we recover when we're a miss that really defines who we are as a family.

My sister Leslie is an strong presence in my life.  Her name was my first word.  Our Mother was calling out to her and I repeated "LOSSH-LEEEE!"  Leslie doesn't have children of her own, save the litany of characters that have struck the page with all the force of freight trains only to swoop into the hearts and minds of her readers.  She has our little Greta Jo and Clara Lou.  She's that second-Mama sort of Aunt Leslie.  She hugs them, comforts them, feeds them, bathes them, clothes them, plays, and just plain loves them, loves on them (not sure the distinction, but I am clear there is one).  Even at their young lives, when such concepts are only mimicked, Leslie serves as an example of compassion and unconditional acceptance.

This has been the longest two and a half weeks since the girls were born.  They've visited with Aunt Leslie, at the hospital a couple of times, and have been to where Leslie is a house guest and convalescing.

The changes in the girls can be striking, one moment to the next, not to mention one day or week.  Leslie noticed immediately and it was hard to witness the pang of loss from not having had the regular contact with the girls the way she had.  Clara Lou is quite the talker recently, kind of like Boo in Monsters, Inc.  Her spark from baby to toddler is complete. It's clear she understands us, and the little wordlets are positively irresistible.  Her quick smile, and giddy laughter are positively the best cure to a down day.  Greta Jo's spark from toddler to a little girl is accompanied by a greater awareness of her world.  She makes up games and jokes, but is also aware of plot in books and stories.  This increased awareness also includes what's going on with their Aunt Leslie.  After saying good night to Leslie who's voice must have been familiar, but was, well, laboured, she turned to me and said "Aunt Leslie's hurt."  I told her, yes sweetheart. Aunt Leslie's hurt, and healing.  That takes time.

I am deeply proud of my sister Leslie.  She is just three weeks after her stroke, and has enough awareness to know what abilities are challenged, and just how much she has to overcome.  She feels abandoned by bits and pieces of her characters.  We've described her stroke as if the connections from her brain to her body were roadways, some highways, other side roads, and still some dirt roads.  The strides in improvement to her health, dangerously elevated blood sugar and high blood pressure now in check, is accompanied by a greater awareness of her world.  Just like Greta Jo, it's a great time of opportunity for thinking things anew.  It's hard to think on it that way for Leslie, but being hurt, sometimes the sting serves the purpose of slowing us down enough to allow for our bodies to recover.

We don't get to keep what we start off with.  I look at the sweet little bodies of our girls.  They are no longer infants, and not only have their minds expanded, but their bodies have lengthened, and skin, although sweetly soft, not the same paper thin skin of infancy.  They leap into their hugs, and jump into laughter.  Every hurt can be healed with a proclamation of "muah!  All better!"

Everybody has stuff that keeps us from enjoying that freedom of being toddlers and little kiddos.  They experience life with a wide range of unchecked emotions that aren't necessarily proportional to the circumstance.  Whether alone or part of a family, however you define it, we impact one another, our health, our choices, and how we show up for one another.  This week, the stuff on my family's plate is waiting on news from Dad's doctor visit tomorrow when we hope to learn whether he can be off the oxygen, and his heart is healthy, and whether he, like Mom, won't be able to drive, and the adjustments to his and Mom's independent living.  Today, I pray for the patience to sit and wait while Leslie musters the courage to face a life forever changed.  Today, I marvel at the girls love of playing, grass between their toes, fingers dirty with mud and sand.

Today has been another day.  I pray that I have another like it tomorrow.


There were many wonderful moments today, whether Leslie working and laughing, or Mom holding both the girls when we stopped by for a surprise visit to pick up some mail for Leslie.  By far, my favourite was when Greta Jo was in the swing in the back garden after lunch. She was wanting more.  "More swing Maman!"  I would wait and she would cock her head, and say "plaît"  -- her abbreviated "s'il te plaît."  Well, time crept up and it was nap time.  I let her know that when the swing stops, it is time to go inside. She just cried and cried.

I told her: Greta Jo, you can either cry over your time in the swing coming to an end or let yourself enjoy the rest of the ride.


I wasn't even trying - but it was that maternal moment that I realized that crying myself to sleep last night when I was worried I wouldn't find the recording of Leslie reading The Paper Bag Princess By Robert N. Munsch, and the gush of all my fears overwhelmed me... it was then that I realized the pendulum swing I was on, my life.  I could either let it continue to overwhelm me and and that moment when you choose to step beyond feeling feelings, and being them?  That moment when health experience and acknowledgment steps into wallowing?  I had to stop so I could enjoy the rest of my time on the swing.

Gammy Margi's Visit from Nancy Moïse Haws on Vimeo.

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